Sweet Heroes Step Up When Synagogue’s Rooftop Beehives Become Pandemic Casualty
Synagogue’s rooftop beehives had sweet beginning that only gets better
They are beehives with the sweetest of beginnings.
Arthur LaBan started the project about five years ago when he was in seventh grade.
This would be his service project for his upcoming bar mitzvah at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia.
KYW radio did a story at the time.
Beekeeper Don Shump helped Arthur and his dad, Craig, get quite the operation going on the synagogue’s rooftop.
As Craig describes in this wonderful piece on Philly.com, the thousands of happy, productive bees created 150 pounds of honey that the congregation was able to put in jars and sell as a fundraiser every year.
They called it, “The Holy Honey Initiative.”
Rabbi Eli Freedman told Craig, the honey actually came to represent so much more. “Holy Honey exemplifies our congregation’s vision to create profound connections. Bees, as an integral part of our ecosystem, remind us of the interconnectedness of all things.”
Those beehives had been unattended since March when the COVID pandemic shut everything down, including the synagogue. No one could get up to the rooftop .
With Arthur now away at college, Craig LaBan and Don Shump finally got access a couple weeks ago.
What they found was devastating.
The hives had blown over. The lids were off. The honey that they would’ve normally harvested this time of year for the High Holy Days. Mites had ravaged the honeycomb.
All appeared lost.
Until Shump came up with a brilliant and generous idea.
He was able to donate a treasure extra honey from some other hives.
The honey went to K’Far Cafe where pastry chef, Katreena Kanney made honey cakes to sell for the Jewish New Year.
The restaurant owners Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook, would in turn make a charitable donation to the synagogue to help rebuild the hives next spring.
Shump is also going to help rebuild the hives on the roof.
Why is Shump doing this?
He told Craig, “What happened at the synagogue really bothered me, and so I felt inclined to pay forward my good fortune because I know it hasn’t been easy on houses of worship during this time.”
How about them bees?
Pollinators of kindness and resilience.
Here’s to all of that.
And a much anticipated sweet New Year for all!
You can read Craig LaBan’s entire thoughtful piece here.
When he’s not trying to save bees, Craig LaBan is the restaurant critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Turns out, he’s not the only great writer in the family. You can check out his wife, Eliazbeth’s latest novel, “Beside Herself.”